Washington, D.C. — The Broadcasting Board of Governors condemns the targeting of independent journalists in Russia-annexed Crimea following police searches on Tuesday of the homes of seven residents of the peninsula, including some who have worked as RFE/RL contributors.
The Moscow-backed Crimean Prosecutor General’s Office says it has launched a criminal case against one of these people, Mykola Semena, alleging that he engaged in “extremism” and agitated for “violations of Russia’s territorial integrity” on the basis of his journalistic work.
The prosecutor also called for the closure of RFE/RL’s Crimea Realities website, one of the last remaining sources of independent news on Russia-annexed Crimea, claiming that the website seeks to discredit the Russian Federation, incites interethnic hatred and promotes extremism.
“The charges being considered against Semena are baseless and are aimed only at silencing independent voices and dissent,” BBG CEO and Director John Lansing said. “Threats to the free practice of journalism must neither be made nor tolerated by any government.”
“Journalism is not a crime,” BBG Chairman Jeff Shell said. “Reporters from RFE/RL and indeed all media outlets must be allowed to do their work in Crimea without fear of intimidation or arrest.”
This morning, U.S. Embassy in Kyiv spokesman Jonathan Lalley said, “The United States strongly condemns the detention of journalists” in Crimea and calls for “a halt to raids on media organizations by Russian occupation authorities.” He added: “These actions are further examples of the Russian government’s growing crackdown on independent voices in Russia and Russia-occupied Crimea.”
RFE/RL’s Crimea Realities website was launched in March 2014, immediately following the Russian annexation of the Crimean peninsula. The site publishes content in the Crimean Tatar, Ukrainian and Russian languages in an effort to provide all audiences affected by the annexation with informed analysis and an independent and balanced account of the peninsula’s news.
Upholding freedom of the press is one of the BBG’s top priorities in its efforts to support accurate, objective journalism around the world. Crimea, which was annexed by Russia in 2014, is ranked “Not Free,” according to Freedom House’s 2015 Freedom of the Press Findings.
The Broadcasting Board of Governors is an independent federal agency supervising all U.S. government-supported, civilian international media. Its mission is to inform, engage and connect people around the world in support of freedom and democracy. BBG networks include the Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, the Middle East Broadcasting Networks (Alhurra TV and Radio Sawa), Radio Free Asia, and the Office of Cuba Broadcasting (Radio and TV Marti). BBG programming has a measured audience of 226 million in more than 100 countries and in 61 languages.
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